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WOMAN'S  LIFE                       147
prepared for the responsibilities of wifehood and motherhood.
In educated families the girls learned also to read and to write. There have always been talented women in China, and to-day there are over half a dozen women authors who have achieved a more or less national reputation. Many celebrated educated women were known In the Han Dynasty, and later in the Wei and Ch'in Dynasties. One of these women was Hsieh Taoytin, who, as a conversationalist, often saved her brother-in-law from the verbal attacks of his guests. Literacy was limited in China, for men and for women, but scholars* families always taught their daughters to read and to write. The content of this literary education was necessarily limited to literature, poetry, history and human wisdom, as absorbed from the Confucian classics. The girls stopped there, but really the men did not advance very much further. Literature, history, philosophy and the wisdom of life, together with some special knowledge of medicine or the rules of government, were the sum of human knowledge. The education of women was still more definitely humanistic. The difference was in intensiveness rather than in scope.
For, reversing Pope's dictum, the Chinese held that "too much learning was a dangerous thing for women's virtue.5* In painting and in poetry they often played a hand, for the writing of short lyrics seemed especially suitable to women's genius. These poems were short, dainty and exquisite, not powerful. Li Ch'ingchao (1081-1141?), the greatest poetess of China, left a handful of immortal, imperishable verse, full of the sentiment of rainy nights and recaptured happiness. The tradition of woman's poetry has been practically unbroken, until in Manchu times we can count almost a thousand women who left poetry in print in this dynasty alone. Under the influence of Yuan Mei, the man who was against footbinding, a mode was set up for women to write poetry, which was greatly deprecated by another outstanding scholar, Chang Shihtsai, as being detrimental to the sound ideal of womanhood. But writing poetry did not really interfere with women's duties as wife and mother, and Li Ch'ingchao was an ideal wife. She was no Sappho.